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TSE  August 2001

TSE August 2001

Subject:

Re: Yeats and personal life.

From:

"Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 8 Aug 2001 15:12:38 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Dear Rick,

I'm not sure precisely how you are using "mystic" here, but if I am the 
Nancy you mention, I don't know what I ever said to suggest Yeats was not 
into a form of occult one could call that.  _The Tower_ is an occult text in 
many ways, and his interest in the occult is not in question.  But that does 
not make him not a modernist.  "Modernism" is not any more easily pinned 
down or made coherent than "Romanticism."  That is why many scholars 
now use the term "Modernisms."  Peter Nicholls's book is a good example.

Also "mainline" is now a blurred category, but Yeats was always included 
in the notion of "high modern."  His late poems deliberately broke with he 
Celtic Twilight forms of the early ones.

So I don't know exactly what you claim I said.
Nancy





Date sent:      	Wed, 8 Aug 2001 11:11:24 -0600
Send reply to:  	[log in to unmask]
From:           	"Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
To:             	<[log in to unmask]>
Subject:        	Yeats and personal life.

Steve:

A very interesting topic.  I'm glad you brought it up.

I've taken one of those courses.  The one on Dante.  It was great but I
was frustrated through not being able to ask questions and thereby
understand the instructors' (Cook and Herzman) positions better.  In this
case I will relieve the frustration a little by throwing the questions
back to you, thereby  incurring the remark "How the hell should I know?".

Dr. Perl considers Yeats a Modernist.  I guess this is because of the
symbolist/Mellarme link.   I had thought that Yeats went from symbolism to
the occult and would not be thought of as  a mainline Modernist.  An
essential germ and greatly admired by the Modernists but prefatory and not
Modern.  I think of the late Yeats as very mystic although Nancy has
previously taken exception to this.

 Was it Yeats' personal life that is being referred back to in the poem or
 is it his developing  intellectual life?  The poem could be viewed as
 illustrative of Yeats move from symbolism to the mystic..  Yeats was
 constantly revising his work and when taken to task for this stated that
 "It is myself I remake".??? see Walter Starkie's introduction to "The
 Celtic Twilight and a selection of early poems"  Yeats was very much into
 the occult; an anathema to mainline modernists.  This interest in the
 occult makes Yeat's spiritual and intellectual life perhaps of more
 interest in reading his poetry than that set of inter-personal relations
 that we think of as a "personal life".  I think it would be essential for
 a critic to separate Yeat's spiritual life from his personal life.  Yeats
 felt that his study of Walter Savage Landor was a watershed in his
 spiritual and intellectual life.  Dr. Perl ignores Landor in your
 excerpt.

Where does Dr. Perl get the idea that synthesis might apply to Modernism? 
This sounds like an intellectual straw man.  I think that one must
differentiate between synergism as a goal of the authors and synergism as
a result of critical analysis.  Modernism was often deliberately jarring
and disruptive.  It was the intent of the authors to break the
intellectual complacency of the Victorians.  To break away from the
rhetorical writing of poetry into a new "Modern" way.  How to represent
the "Real"  was one of the many things that they struggled with on a
highly individual basis.    

Does "Modernism" mean the same to today's critics as it did to the writers
involved?  TSE and Pound (probably mostly Pound) went around adjudging
poets as "modern" or not but the poets were much too independent too be
forced into a bag.  A case in point is D.H. Lawrence who is at once
referred to as a "Georgian" (another group of nongroupies) and
"Modernist".  Lawrence probably didn't care what the label was as long as
the intellectually rigorous read his work.  In your brief excerpt  Dr.
Perl seems to blur between Modernism as a retrospective term of critics 
and as a set of operating guidelines for the Modernist poet.

Rick Seddon
McIntosh, NM, USA    

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